He looked at me from across the table and pushed his plate to the side. We had just finished our family dinner. The girls and my husband had left the table and, together, the two of us were trying to make sense of senseless things. He had just come up against some people at school who had belittled his faith and had tried to tear down the Christian principles he believed in.
“But Mom,” my eighteen-year-old said, “I don’t even want to talk to them. They are just going to make fun of me and think what they want to think anyway.”
Over the past year, our family had been through multiple changes and multiple challenges. We switched churches when the church we were actively involved in decided they didn’t really believe in the entire Bible. Or maybe it was that they believed that all along and we had just learned to ask the right questions to get at the truth. After three years of faithfulness, we couldn’t help but feel betrayed and rejected by the very body of the church.
And then, there was the rise in protests and riots and conflicts concerning race and religion and sexual preference. The US Supreme Court legalized gay marriage and everyone who took a side was vocal; the conservatives – me included – were called bigots and racists and horrible untrue things. Those who were not vocal were scared, and perhaps rightly so. People were losing their jobs for speaking up. The pressures to conform to a society who had cast off the righteousness of God were nearly unbearable.
I was silent for maybe a full twenty seconds. I prayed like crazy, ‘Say the words of Jesus, say the words of Jesus, say the words of Jesus!’ I looked him square in the eye and told him the two words that Jesus taught me not two hours before.
“Yes, Jonah,” I said. I resisted the urge to rush around the table and hold my man-child, to let that fierce mama thing inside snarl at the opposition, to shield and protect my only son from the world.
He grinned, shook his head a little, then rubbed his forehead with his fingers. “Yeah, I guess,” he said, and he got it … just like I got it, too.
I told him it was okay because, of late, my struggle had been immense. In fact, Jonah and I could probably have been mistaken for twins at that point. If the world was going to go down that path of sin and evil, let them! But that’s not what Jesus had said. He had said to go and to teach and to baptize. He had said folks would hate us because they had hated Him and we followed Him. He had said to love no matter what, to serve no matter what, to remain set apart no matter what and to try really hard to be holy like He was holy.
My Jesus had reminded me that at the foot of the cross was level ground and that the acreage there could handle every single soul from every single age.
I was painfully honest with my son. It humbled me, and I was grateful for this closeness. With complete transparency, I shared the thoughts and feelings and reactions I had toward the people of this world. And I shared the lessons I had learned and needed to implement even when I didn’t want to.
“But if there’s grace and mercy for me, then there’s grace and mercy for them,” I admitted. “And I’m not called to make anyone believe, I’m just called to tell them what Jesus has done for me and to trust the Holy Spirit will do His good and perfect work in their hearts and in mine.”
There was more to the conversation, like demonstrating true gratitude when those who persecuted us came to Christ, but suddenly I was aware that we — mother and son — were working it out together, by revering and committing to share and responding to God’s Word.
We tried to figure out how we fit and how we didn’t and how to come to terms with that. How we are called to respond and not react. How to love others without compromising our beliefs.
Together, we set sail for Ninevah.
**Portions of this post first appeared in the Northeast Christian Church of Lexington, Kentucky Women’s Ministry Newsletter.